With next DRI winners looming, Central Islip gets busy

Central intelligence: Examining business, residential and transportation assets, a local planning committee has created a redevelopment action strategy for downtown Central Islip.
By GREGORY ZELLER //

With the latest winners of Albany’s annual Downtown Regional Initiative waiting in the wings, they’re getting busy in Central Islip, reigning Long Island champion.

The statewide competitive-application process – which awards $10 million stipends to spur private investment in distressed downtowns in each of New York’s 10 economic-development zones – is set to announce its Round 4 winners in the coming days.

But first, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has been delivering updates on “transformational projects” in various states of progress in downtowns supported by last year’s strategic investments – including Central Islip, which followed wins by Westbury in 2016 and Hicksville in 2017 to become Long Island’s Round 3 winner.

Focused on the rebirth of vacant and underutilized parcels, with one eye squarely on mixed-use development, the seven Central Islip projects outlined by the governor promote mass transit access or otherwise maximize existing community resources – “an example to other cities how targeted investments can enhance opportunities and quality of life,” according to Cuomo.

Rosanna Rosado: “Exciting” developments.

“As part of the Downtown Revitalization Initiative, Central Islip will be able to further diversify its already growing economy through increased access to transportation and the redevelopment of mixed-used spaces,” the governor added.

Among the projects detailed were streetscape improvements – including new lighting, signage and foliage – to enhance pedestrian safety and connect business resources along Carleton Avenue; a new downtown sewer system to “eliminate current limitations to the area’s development”; and the transformation of a former LIRR station into a “transit-friendly mixed-use development,” according to the governor’s office.

Other efforts spurred by the $10 million DRI award include the development of a two-story Carleton Avenue building featuring commercial uses and a mixture of “multigenerational” studio and one-bedroom apartments, and the creation of a “Central Islip History Trail.”

These and other projects were included in a Strategic Investment Plan created by a local planning committee – municipal representatives, state planners, community activists, neighborhood business owners and other Central Islip stakeholders – which used $300,000 of the $10 million award to examine local business, transportation and housing assets, identify economic-development opportunities and create an overall downtown-redevelopment vision.

Howard Zemsky: Transit transformation.

The progress in the census-designated hamlet within the Town of Islip is exciting “for Central Islip and all of Long Island,” according to New York State Secretary of State Rossana Rosado, especially with the Empire State Development Corp. – working closely with the state’s Regional Economic Development Councils – getting reading to announce its Round 4 winners.

“Governor Cuomo’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative continues to make positive changes in communities across New York State,” added Rosado, who chairs the DRI program. “These investments in the urban core will drive further smart growth and ensure a welcoming community for future generations.”

And in Central Islip – where the LIRR’s “third track” and Double Track projects both loom large – the progress has the added advantage of serving as a mass-transit primer for other downtowns, noted ESDC President and CEO Howard Zemsky.

“Public transit is a critical part of economic development, and Central Islip’s DRI will leverage previous state projects like the LIRR’s Double Track and ‘third track’ to help revitalize this community,” Zemsky said in a statement. “From investing in infrastructure for new development and enhancing pedestrian safety to realizing transit-oriented mixed-use developments, these DRI projects will usher in a true transformation.”